Among the many people that play an instrumental role in promoting the presence of women in scientific and technological disciplines is María Villarroya Gaudó, PhD in electronic engineering and professor of computer technology and architecture at the Universidad de Zaragoza.

  • Science talks

The engineer dedicated to women’s equality in the workplace

Today we celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science

María closes her emails with the following quote from Margaret Rossiter:

The work of women researchers is transcendental for humanity and must be valued.

Over the last 20 years, she has balanced her professional life with her passion of promoting access to science and technology among girls. “Beginning around age six, girls are made to feel that they are bad a math, and that continues until they are 12. That’s why it’s essential that we offer a different approach to math and aim to boost their confidence in the subject.”

Every year, María and a group of engineers tour schools giving talks and organizing workshops. “For 20 years, the Association of Women Researchers and Technologists (Asociación de Mujeres Investigadoras y Tecnólogas, “AMIT”) in Aragon has strived to include more women in science and engineering.

What we’ve seen is that more than 50% of high school girls want nothing to do with the subject and that doing activities in high school doesn't change engineering studies. In 2015, February 11th was declared the International Day of Women and Girls, and on February 11th, 2016, we launched a Woman Engineer in Every School program, where a female engineer visits a school to talk about her work and conduct a workshop, complemented by a discussion with the teaching staff.

"Many elementary school teachers were unaware that fewer than 30% of engineering students were women.”


1001 Female Engineering Friends

This year, because the situation is more complicated due to COVID, AMIT and the Universidad de Zaragoza opted to create a story, 1001 Female Engineering Friends, with funding from the Women’s Institute and Fecyt. The goal is to promote science and technology among elementary school students. The material, accompanied by videos available on YouTube, was sent to all the schools in Aragon. Using simple, accessible language, it tells girls and boys what it means to be an engineer, not in the abstract, but directly from 17 female engineers, who serve as examples.

The story is available at this link

“We want to work in diverse teams of men and women. Being in the minority makes you different and we want equal opportunities. If girls create barriers for themselves, it is because society has helped to put them there. If you have support, you can do it. I had a lot of support in my family and I had examples I could look to.”

“It’s harder for women to be heard. Every time we say something we have to repeat it and that takes more energy. There are scientific studies that show when you relate an accomplishment, the unconscious attributes it to a man, making it difficult to ensure progress or further achievement. Roughly 50% of women engineers abandon the profession, turning to other careers,” María explains.



Faster and more efficient hardware

For her doctoral thesis in electronic engineering at the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, Maria Villarroya studied the design and manufacture of micro/nano mechanical systems for mass measurement.

Today she works on equipment that is increasingly faster and that maximizes hardware resources and improves energy efficiency.

When applied to construction, she says, “In engineering design and planning, plans used to be rendered on paper. Now, designs are rendered in 3-D; our work has been key to that transition. We also facilitate the automation of calculations, in structural design, for example.”  

“[With regard to engineering large infrastructures,] the development of new cheaper and lighter hardware permits the application of light sensors, optical cameras that allow us to process the data from mobile vehicles; we take images that provide information and we survey caves, tunnels, or other inaccessible places where people needn’t enter,” María explains about her developments and their importance to society.  



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